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U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) yesterday concluded a two-day conference held in Fargo to discuss ways to improve agriculture products transportation in North Dakota and across the Northern Plains.The conference aimed to examine the transportation challenges and issues that farmers and producers in the region have been facing, particularly over the past year. Farmers, grain elevator operators and processors have had difficulty getting ag products to market in a timely fashion in part because of rail congestion and delays, Heitkamp said in a press release.The senator moderated a panel discussion on ag transportation and shipment delays with Surface Transportation Board Chairman Daniel Elliott and U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Edward Avalos."Agriculture shipment delays have had crippling effects on some of the hardest-working folks in our country, but it really speaks to the larger issue of a transportation system that has failed to live up to expectations," said Heitkamp. "The reason we put together this conference was to enable top officials, producers, elevators and the agriculture industry to take a serious look at the challenges of how we’re transporting agriculture products in the region today and how we can improve our methods in the future to prevent backlogs."Heitkamp and Hoeven co-hosted the conference with Won Koo, director of North Dakota State University’s Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies. Panelists and speakers included top officials from BNSF Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific."We're working to get BNSF and Canadian Pacific to build a bigger, better railroad in North Dakota," said Hoeven. "Our state's economy and population are growing, and railroad infrastructure needs to grow with them. The real solution for agricultural rail shipping will be a sustained capital investment by BNSF and CP to add more rail capacity, as well as more locomotives, rail cars and crews to move people and products."
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